A Communication from the Michigan District Board of Directors and the Michigan District President in Regards to Concordia University Ann Arbor6 min read

Greetings from the Michigan District as, together, we fix our eyes on Jesus.

The Board of Directors of the Michigan District (BoDMI) and President Davis regret the recent actions of the Board of Regents (BoR) and Administration of Concordia University Wisconsin/Ann Arbor (CUWAA) relative to the Ann Arbor campus (CUAA). We also heartily disagree with the new direction for what will be a dramatically diminished ministry.

We (BoDMI) had hoped that the new administration at CUWAA would be dedicated to continuing the growth and development that CUAA had seen over the last many years and work with stakeholders to make it financially sustainable. When the merger between CUW and CUAA first took place, leaders at the Concordia University System targeted a population of 1,100 students for a school to be sustainable. Having now met and exceeded that population, having new programs begin to hit their stride, and having an exciting master plan premiered in November, it looked like CUAA was going to become an ever-stronger partner for the Church generally and the Michigan District specifically.

While some things are unclear, what is clear is that the leadership of CUWAA is intent on dramatically diminishing the scope and therefore impact of CUAA. The leadership is focusing on fewer but “more Lutheran” students at the school.

It is unclear to the BoDMI how long the reimagined CUAA has been in the works. Our hope is that when President Ankerberg met with our President and the CEO of our Church Extension Fund in December to outline three options for CUAA that the micro-campus—the one option our leaders vehemently opposed—was not already either in process or the foregone conclusion. Subsequent events have caused this fact to be questioned.  Our District worked hard to raise funds so that the District could be part of a solution in providing time for the school’s leadership to make strategic adjustments that kept the trajectory of the school materially the same. President Davis, as requested by CUWAA leadership, along with some volunteers worked to provide ideas and alternatives that became a Roadmap for Autonomy. We are concerned that the die was already cast.

It is unclear to the BoDMI why greater effort was not given to working with stakeholders and other supporters of CUAA to arrive at a different outcome than what now appears certain. The Michigan District and our Church Extension Fund have demonstrated great capacity, especially in difficult times, to support the ministry of CUAA. The work that our network of volunteers did on the Roadmap to Autonomy was met with no collaboration, but rather suspicion and criticism for having been offered. A number of times President Davis has been reminded that the BoR, not the Michigan District, holds fiduciary responsibility for CUAA and that the District’s input was not welcome.

It is unclear to the BoDMI how exactly Lutheran identity has become such an issue. We know that criticism has been leveled at CUAA because of liturgical practices, people baptized without being part of a particular congregation, and a “paucity of Lutheran decorations on campus.” (See CUAA Task Force Report, May 31, 2024) Our understanding is that both biblically and confessionally a latitude in liturgical practice is permitted and that no one approach is commanded. We understand that Baptism is a gift and not contingent on being a member of any one congregation. The examples of people baptized outside of a congregational setting in the Bible are numerous. With such an accent on Lutheran decorations and other demonstrations of being “truly” Lutheran, we are concerned that idolatry of “Lutheranism” may be close to the door. The most disturbing issue relative to Lutheran Identity was this statement in the BoR’s committee’s report: “The weakness is a shallow understanding of Lutheran mission and identity that equates evangelization with Lutheran mission and identity.” While we want to put the best construction on this, at the very least it is unfortunate that the language puts evangelization at odds with mission, which of course is odd.

Given where we are and the decisions that have been made regarding CUAA, how will we in the Michigan District work going forward?

First, we will do all we can to concentrate on Jesus’ mission of seeking and saving the lost through the proclamation of His Gospel. Our accent is always what God is doing in and through Christians and their congregations. We are “people of hope vigorously making known the love of Jesus.” We follow Jesus who was sent to seek and save the lost. We follow Jesus who tells the Church to go and make disciples.

Second, we will remain steadfastly biblical and confessional. We will be bound together in Christian love. We will not be bound together by tertiary authorities, e.g. human traditions, ancient theologians, or Lutheran writers. That in and of itself is “un-Lutheran” and borders on heresy.

Third, we will do all we can to help those negatively impacted by the recent actions at CUAA. The BoDMI will meet in August and determine how best to steward the gifts given to the District through the recent fund drive. We will ensure that the monies donated will be used as people intended them to be used as per the commitment form. We will also see how we can continue to support remaining students, faculty, and staff.

Fourth, we will have to assess what impact the changes surrounding CUAA will have on District finances and what we can support financially going forward. For example, an early estimate is that, if we have to move next summer’s Convention, the cost to the District may be approximately $200,000. The BoDMI will carefully steward the congregational contributions to the District consistent with the intentions of our congregations and directives they may have.

Fifth, even at this late date we will be open to the will and power of God to provide a different outcome to what now seems inevitable.

Sixth, we will continue to work together within The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod to accomplish the objectives of the Synod to the glory of God, the good of His people and the increase of His Kingdom. We want to be part of a Psalm 133 community.

We are grateful for the people of the Michigan District. As your Board of Directors, we seek to serve you in this tender time. Please pray for all involved, that God’s wisdom and mercy would lead us through these days.

Rev. David A. Davis

Michigan District, LCMS

Dr. Stephen R. Boergert

Michigan District Board of Directors


For more information about Concordia University Ann Arbor, visit

For more information about Concordia University Wisconsin, visit

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This blog is published by the Communications Department of the Michigan District, LCMS.

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Robert Rahn - June 25, 2024

Appreciate much more this report from Pres. Davis rather than the previous conciliatory one. By the Board of Regents totally rejecting the autonomous plan submitted by the committee and the revelations of the thinking of the BofR it appears to me that CU-W has as its main desire to perpetuate and enhance their position. I can only imagine what some of the next steps are. I fear that the attempt will be made to sell off land, rent out space and other types of foolery to only enhance the future of CU-W. It does not bode well for supporting the current weak-kneed approach being taken by the BofR. It seems they are interested in deLutheranizing the approach. One wonders if the woke accusations against CUW had more substance than what we were led to believe. I see a lack of the Christian spirit needed to solve the issue and I look forward to the BofD MI to continue to look for an autonomous solution. This move also makes the effort of CU-TX seem to be more acceptable than before.

John - June 25, 2024

In light of our new monastic institution in Wyoming, with its effort to rebirth Stephanism in the LCMS, has anyone considered the idea of birthing a new college outside the Concordia system with a focus on living a confessionally Lutheran life in the world. Some assistance in such an effort might be gained from the Oswald Hoffman school of outreach at Concordia St Paul if it’s still in operation there…perhaps even providing a potential refuge for the school if St Paul comes under attack next?

Beth DeMeritt - June 25, 2024

Are there eyes blind to the Martin Luther statue on campus, It would have been nice if the President would have been to the full chapel when the choir sang with a full chapel. Though we did not graduate from CUAA our daughter and granddaughter did. We have attended the Boar’s Head many times and been moved to tears by this Christmas story. We have brought unchurched friends to many events. Our LWML ladies have heard the wonderful story of the nursing school and donated a wonderful banner. Praying for a turn of events. To Christ be the Glory.

Farrukh Khan - June 25, 2024

CUAA should move forward as an autonomous institution and carry on with its mission, ministry and outreach apart from educating the future leaders. CUW is and will always try to make itself stronger and more powerful. CUAA should continue to work on Biblical teachings and principle. It shouldn’t be- we have always done this way and we will continue this way. It is time for a new venue and future for CUAA without compromising on Biblical principles it should move forward. God shall and will provide and bless. God bless the BoD MI and our DP.

Peter Richert - June 26, 2024

I suspect that President Ferry’s retirement opened the door for those who were not enamored with the CUAA partnership and the financial challenges presented. Sad that these challenges were not looked upon more so as opportunities. Capital campaign, etc. CUAA has come along way over the last 10 years. Programs, enrollment, donations, infrastructure… Now all of a sudden an emergency has arisen?

Madelyn Craig - June 26, 2024

Could we have some clarification on the second point?

“Second, we will remain steadfastly biblical and confessional. We will be bound together in Christian love. We will not be bound together by tertiary authorities, e.g. human traditions, ancient theologians, or Lutheran writers. That in and of itself is “un-Lutheran” and borders on heresy.“

What exactly is meant by “We will not be bound together by tertiary authorities, e.g. human traditions, ancient theologians, or Lutheran writers. That in and of itself is “un-Lutheran” and borders on heresy.”
What is being included in tertiary authorities? Who or what specific traditions, ancient theologians, and Lutheran writers are being included in that statement?
Thank you for your time.

Rev. Kevin M. Koester - June 26, 2024

I don’t understand why so many seem to think that a former CUAA professor, and one who, while he was serving there, definitely displayed his love towards our Savior, towards biblical truth, and towards the students served at CUAA (I was one such student), would, now that he’s president, desire to destroy this institution of our church. Do you really think that’s what he wants to do? Was he called to be the president of Mequon only, and now that his main office is there, he has no desire to see CUAA also succeed? How illogical!

Even though I’ve had some continued contact with Dr. Ankerberg over the years, I will acknowledge that I can’t read his mind nor know his heart perfectly (so maybe I’m wrong), but the fact remains that CUAA has had financial struggles for decades! From my perspective, as soon as the Concordias each determined to become the biggest and best at as much as possible, they all set themselves in competition with each other, and against other colleges in such a way that they could not all 10 survive. We’ve now lost 3, besides some other valuable schools, and if we continue down that track, how could we not expect to lose more?

But what is wrong with being a small institution determined to focus upon the things that matter most (especially when we are in such desperate need for more Lutheran pastors and teachers despite the former growth of the Concordias)? Is that what is in store for CUAA’s future? I can’t know, and I doubt even the persons most intimately connected with it right now could think they know for sure. But if that’s what happens, I would be proud to call myself an alum of that institution, perhaps prouder to do so than ever before. For after all, in everything I’ve observed since I began to pay attention to the Concordias in 2000, I’ve noticed a lot of things happening, primarily for the sake of institutional self maintenance and growth, that have been very contrary to upholding true Christian mission work.

Will CUAA ultimately survive this turmoil? Only God knows. But fighting against each other in this way, playing the blame game, when most of us know very little about what’s really happening and what’s really needed–that’s more likely to bring CUAA to its close than anything the BoR is doing, even though their efforts are surely tainted in some ways, as are all of ours.

Perhaps we should unite together in repenting of our sins, our failures to love our Savior, his truth, and all the students served by all of our institutions (new, old, large, small, preschool through seminary), and realize that none of us has perfectly done what is necessary to keep our many wonderful Lutheran schools open and focused upon their main priorities. Isn’t that the only place to start towards a “Psalm 133 community”?

Thanks be to God for His wonderful grace, in that He has blessed us and preserved us, along with all of our sin-tainted efforts to educate and evangelize, for all these years now past, and has brought good even out of the many failures connected to our efforts to serve Him. May He continue to bless us in the years to come in a similar manner, whether that be through CUAA or other means of His choosing.

David - June 26, 2024

I am a CCAA graduate. Upon earning my degrees, I entered educational ministry in the Lutheran school system where I taught in the classroom and served as a Principal for 25 years.

I ended up leaving the Lutheran system for this exact kind of thing. I could no longer abide the growing politics, in-fighting, and self-serving agendas. The BoDMI has my respect for speaking truth to power. I will pray for you.

Nonz - June 26, 2024

“We will not be bound together by tertiary authorities, e.g. human traditions, ancient theologians, or Lutheran writers. That in and of itself is “un-Lutheran” and borders on heresy.“

That statement could use a lot more clarity. To be Lutheran is to be bound to the Book of Concord as of the true exposition of Scripture. Our Confessions site numerous early church fathers, or “ancient theologians” as put in this article, so yes, we are bound by certain writings of ancient theologians.

Dominus vobiscum

Madelyn Craig - June 29, 2024

I saw a comment made elsewhere that the board of regents of CUWAA asked the Michigan district to put together the roadmap to autonomy. This is the first I have seen that claim. As far as I’ve seen, the Michigan district put that together independently. Can we receive clarification on that?

Roger Elowsky - July 5, 2024

It would appear that this is a double cross that has been in the making for some time. The refusal to go forward with autonomy (sink or swim, your choice) despite the predetermined conditions being met and surpassed confirms there were forces determined to favor CUW. The current condition of cost overruns at both universities is being glossed over by the focus on CUAA only. The makeup of the current board and President finally permits the plan to move forward. Reduce CUAA offerings to an undesirable level, declare it a loser, and close the doors. Left unsaid is who benefits from the disposal proceeds.

Robert Rahn - July 10, 2024

The one positive point in the MI Dist press release is the reference to a committee that worked on “A ROAD TO AUTONOMY. I would encourage that committee to keep meeting and seeking ways for CAA to become an autonomous institution once again. If the Board of Regents is telling the MI District their input is not needed, why then did not the Board of Regents take some remedial action long ago to remedy the situation. It seems they were derelict in their fiduciary duty and not transparent in their oversight. To reveal the problem in Feb and take drastic action in June is hardly an acceptable timetable. Is this the outcome when there is steady enrollment increases and sustained programs are introduced?